April 2011 ~ My IdeaLife

Superwomen have it all by NOT doing it all

Superwoman really don't exist, it's more like Insanitywoman, so stop pretending and start outsourcing...Read more...

The love of your life

Is it a man, is it a career, no it's superbaby!...Read more...

A lifetime of beauty in a song

Middle East (the band not the place) have somehow condensed the human experience into this soulful song: Blood...Read more...

Friday, 22 April 2011

Oh to be Ita!


Like many in Australia I tuned in to the ABC’s Paper Giants on Sunday and Monday nights. I was born in the 70s and the footage of red rattlers~, paperboys selling at intersections, 20c tolls on the harbour bridge all brought back so many of my own childhood memories. Add to this the fact my Dad was a newspaper man, and for me the nostalgia of the series was like a beautiful warm blanket wrapped around what in essence was an amazing true story of a woman and mother: Ita Buttrose. No wonder I sat there mesmerised despite my sleep deprivation.

Putting the sentimentality of the series aside, one scene stuck in my mind. It was where Ita arrives home to her ultimately ungrateful, student husband after an obviously long and stressful day at work (picture all 6’2” of Kerry Packer in full flight yelling down at you) only to start dinner for him ‘Do you want onions with your steak?’ and then sit down to the sewing machine!



Now I have issues, namely two boys and a man, but none of my males expect this sort of service, thank goodness. So am I out there celebrating this fact? - no instead I’ve been having hormone-fueled meltdowns over things like having to settle both kids most nights or because my husband reads the paper on the weekend while shoveling cereal into our 2 year old, which is not my idea of great parenting. 

In fact the list of my grievances is quite long and I know the generation of women before me would probably not understand how or why given how relatively good I've got it. So I did some soul-searching as not so fond of the shouting fishwife lurking far too close to the surface. What I discovered was that expectations are the root of all evil.

I grew up naively thinking that men and women were equal and I expected my husband to be my equal partner in parenthood. So I went to university, I focused on my career, I learnt how to change tyres and the oil on a car, I went overseas by myself, I climbed the corporate ladder. On paper there was no clue that my resume was that of a female’s.

Then I fell pregnant and went on maternity leave. Surprisingly the birth, the obvious gender difference in all this, had nothing on becoming a mum. Fatherhood and motherhood I discovered are entirely different experiences.

Consider these facts about my husband:
  • He can sleep through a house-trembling, vomit-producing, full volume baby's cry
  • He feels no guilt about leaving the room for 40 minutes without explanation of where he is going while I’m left baby and a toddler either side of me – and it’s the weekend!
  • He has never been a father before but he is entirely confident that every scream from an under 18mth old is teeth and therefore can be easily dismissed with panadol
  • As soon as his head hits the pillow and sometimes before, usually during a conversation, he falls asleep
Conversely:
  • I’m unable to fall asleep without first running through a checklist of room temperatures, locked doors, open windows, charged monitors
  • A crying baby literally makes my stomach churn, let alone wakes me up
  • I can’t make a decision without first thinking of someone else's well being, god forbid I just go out and have time to myself. 
No wonder I’m mad (in all senses of the word).

Don’t get me wrong; my husband is by all accounts amazing. He’s one of the ‘nice’ guys: honest and hardworking and always willing to help. He even makes an effort to come home early from work, and the best part is he’s more obsessed with household chores than I am.

So does this generation of women expect the wrong things from their husbands?
Should we be content that our husband's role is fundamentally different but equally as valuable to the family?

At the very least I feel there needs to be an adjunct to the women's liberation message. I would hate to see another generation of girls growing up thinking that men are their equals in every way including parenthood when there are differences that mean you probably will take more time out from your career, you probably will earn less as a result, you probably will get less sleep when your children are babies and you’ll probably also get less leisure/alone time. In fact your world will probably be turned upside down and inside out and your husband’s will just shift a little to the right.

I’m not ungrateful to the Germaine Greers of this world; in fact I am completely indebted to them. I would have stabbed myself in the eye if cooking and cleaning while attached to  a sewing machine were expected of me. I also know that women’s liberation allows us to make decisions that do make us very close to equal if we choose. What they didn’t say though is that most of us would do this carrying around truckloads of guilt, resulting in a woman that is equal on the outside while beating herself up on the inside.

It seems there's no getting away from the differences between fathers and mothers, as research* shows the relational strength of the female brain is in stark contrast to the systematic male brain, in part caused by a combination of differences in neural brain structure and hormones. In layman’s terms: men can’t hear a human voice when a team is running around a field kicking a piece of air-filled leather, and women can’t not hear every voice, emotion, vibe, raised eyebrow within a 50m radius, not counting social media.

This doesn’t mean I am comfortable watching someone as brilliant as Ita Buttrose perform the role of full-time housewife and breadwinner, on the contrary. I just know I would be less agitated day-to-day if I hadn’t walked into parenthood with the expectation that my husband and I would equally share the mundane and exhausting tasks required to maintain a family. We don't and that doesn’t make me unliberated it just means I have a brain of the empathising kind* and he has a systematic one and you can guess who drew the short straw, well for now anyway. 

Please don’t slap me Ita! 


Would you like Motherhood more if you'd been prepared for
the gender inequality involved?

~ Red rattlers were the old trains that were around in the 70s - they were way past their use by date as had been in service for at least 20 yrs!
* They just can’t help it, Simon Baron-Cohen, The Guardian, April 17, 2003

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Breastfeeding Pains

“There is nothing sadder than finding yourself overwhelmingly homesick for a place which
doesn’t exist anymore”

@The Bloggess
Twitter, April 10, 2011


I've been planning to wean my nearly seven month old for a few weeks now and keep putting it off. The sterilising, finding the right size teat, creating cool boiled water, knowing the formula tastes like wet cardboard, were thoughts that kept him quickly and simply shoved on the boob.

Last night, suddenly and without warning he refused to nurse. He pushed me away and screamed from around 10.30pm on and off for four hours, as I desperately tried to feed what I perceived was a hungry baby. Eventually at 3am and with lots of rocking he calmed enough to pass out and I promptly followed suit.

At 7am I thought 'he’s been twelve hours without a feed he’ll be starving and he’ll have a great feed'. No such luck, my literally painful situation was not going to be relieved by him, no way, no how. So an hour later he gulps down 240mls of formula no problem. With only moments to spare I hook myself up to the milking machine. Spontaneously explosion averted I relax for a second until my toddler wanders over and points at the rhythmic whirring thingy, 'mama w'dhat?' he giggles, 'Max' turn'. Hubby reading the situation redirects his attentions elsewhere and with one hand on the pump and the other on the phone I call the doctor.

On the way to the doctor I have visions ranging from a simple sore throat or a tooth to a rare digestive disorder. I also have that hope that seems to always get dashed, that maybe, just maybe a member of the medical profession will know what is going on and be able to solve it. No such luck, they can't find the reason and just say it may be this or that but he looks healthy so relax.

Whatever the reason I’m struggling to cope with this on only three hours sleep. Not withstanding the pain cold turkey weaning causes, I was emotionally shocked by the rejection and sudden change in how my baby’s existence was going to be sustained. I found myself listening to the voices in my head – plenty of babies survive on formula, I had formula, but maybe that explains everything? what about that study on brain size, am I stunting his potential? Would I have been the amazing successful form of me if I had been breastfed? what about how fat formula makes babies, will I make him obese? what about viruses? he’ll probably get sick all the time; no matter I’ll keep trying him on the breast and we can go back to plan A: a nice slow and steady progression to the bottle when I'm ready.

These thoughts were all very interesting but completely irrelevant as whatever plans I had, the little guy had his own ideas. Albeit less neurotically informed, they were no less determined in their desired outcome: no boob thank you.

So I sat staring at him (rather than Twitter for iPhone), as he guzzled down his fourth huge bottle in twenty-four hours and tears filled my eyes. All the conflicting arguments and old wives tales faded in light of the sadness that my, most likely last, little baby had just taken a big step away from me towards his independence. I know it’s so tiny compared to what I am to expect in the future, but it’s a hint of the pain I’m sure I’ll feel at those larger milestones (I imagine instead of quiet tears at those points their maybe louder whaling-type goings on).

My sadness is amplified as I’ve been wishing the time away, complaining about the sleep-deprivation and my lack of time to myself. I know I will feel some relief when I get used to the idea but for now I lament that it is the end of an era. The unexplainable feeling of growing your baby with your body alone, is now just a memory. Such a quick moment in time, now gone forever.

I’ve been adamant for about a year that I would only ever have two children. But now for the first time I understand all my friends who just keep getting pregnant. Who wouldn't want to stop time and relive a beautiful memory? 

All I know is that now I am a Mum to two beautiful boys - time is my best friend and my worst enemy. There are days I long for my baby to be a toddler and then there are days like today where I would sell my soul to stop time and hold my bub in my arms forever. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The love of your life


Mark Latham is not a man I ever, ever thought I would agree with on anything. For those reading who aren’t Australian he was our opposition leader for a short time until his various public meltdowns and alleged king hit saw him unceremoniously dumped from his role. 

Like another ousted leader, he keeps popping up in the media and is likewise usually ranting some sort of subjective, under-researched nonsense. But this week he said something on radio^ that I have to admit I related to; ‘...having children is the great loving experience of any lifetime’. This was shocking to me as not only did I agree with him, it now seemed we may have somehow been cosmically linked *horror!* because the day before I had started a post called ‘The love of your life’, of course about my boys.

Luckily Mark Latham wasn’t my inspiration, it was my eldest son, a mere 22 months on this earth, looking up at me and saying for the first time ‘whove you’ as I kissed him nigh-night on Sunday. Shocked and emotional I responded ‘Love you too’ while trying to hold back tears.

I felt my heart in my throat as I closed his door - I wanted to run back in and explain to him in vivid and intense detail how much I loved him, how even when I was tired and grumpy I loved him, even when I had to say no to him I loved him, even when I was away from him he’s always on my mind. But I exercised some self-control and instead started typing, sparing him but not you - sorry!

It got me thinking...despite my normal sleep-deprived tendency to have a good old complain, my boys are the loves of my life. In the many years prior to motherhood I spent an inordinate amount of time analysing, speculating and bumbling about looking for the ‘love of my life’. I also bored quite a few people senseless with endless ramblings that could have as easily been solved by pulling the petals off a daisy. And I mistakenly thought that my wedding was the final chapter in that quest.

I had no idea that there was a love in existence that so dwarfed the love between two adults. (I would have achieved a lot more if I had - damn you ignorance!) A love so huge it throws the whole equilibrium of your existence into turmoil. You start having wierd visions during everyday events. Crossing the road becomes a mini horror movie in your mind as you play out what an out of control car could do to the pram. When you see amazement, joy or fear in your childrens eyes you find yourself wiping tears from your face. You start putting yourself so badly last you sometimes forget to eat and your husband is lucky to get a sideways glance let alone some affection (don't even start me on intimacy!). It is literally mental, well initially anyway, and it’s as beautiful as it is torturous.

This unique and huge love has made me realise that there is so much in the world we don’t understand when we think we do. Mr Latham has copped a lot of flack for his comments about people who have chosen not to have kids. Someone saying publicly that they think child-free people struggle with empathy probably does deserve most of it. But as I read one emotionally-charged critique from a non-parent* it took me back to when I hadn’t had children and I remember thinking that all this hype surrounding the love you feel for your children was definitely over-rated and I honestly thought I would prefer a puppy. I was ignorant, not in a general sense I was just ignorant of what it felt like to be a parent and worse still, I didn’t know it. This didn’t make me any less valid, triumphant, empathetic or human, it just made me ignorant of what it was like to be a parent.

The simple fact is parenthood is inexplicable to non-parents. Parents don’t rave on about their kids to be hurtful or exclusive or to make people who haven’t had kids feel bad, we just say this stuff because we are so overwhelmed and amazed we can’t help gushing and carrying on about it from sunrise to sunset. It is an all-consuming, life changing experience. You want to tell the world. Unfortunately parents forget that there are a lot of people out there who just think we are mad, smug, stupid (see Baby Brain) and intentionally trying to make child-free people envy us. We get so wrapped up in our whirlwind we almost expect that everyone will understand and not only that, we want everyone we love to experience it too. *Squirm*

So If you’re not pregnant and sick of people raving on about the greatness of parenthood, be happy that you will do and experience things that parents will have to forgo because of kids. Like me now dreaming about one day resuming regular ablution habits, let alone the round the world trips I wish I could take#.

But if you are pregnant with your first now, just know you're about to be swept off your feet in every which way that is possible. And despite maybe missing out on a promotion at work or a trip to an amazing travel destination, you won’t regret a second of it once you’ve met ‘the one’.

Can you believe this is a viral promo for maternity bras?
I don't care I love it and invite you to write what you would tell your pre-baby self.



*One response to Mark Latham's comments by Janine Toms on Mamamia.com
^The full transcript of Mark Latham’s interview at ABC Radio National
#I’m turning down free travel as we speak because caring for two under two in a hotel room would likely see me stabbing myself with a pen and certainly see me so exhausted it simply wouldn’t be worth it.